As newly-commissioned ensigns, all officers start with a clean slate. Some will develop into better leaders than others-through their ability to set an example, take care of their men, and get the job done. Fitness reports tell many things about an officer, but many of the traits evaluated are involved in the important obligation to manage people effectively. Is that, then, all there is to this thing called leadership?
Leadership is a term used frequently in the Navy today and should be a topic of great concern to all of us. The Chief of Naval Personnel has reported that the majority of commanding officers and career counselors consider command policies and leadership to be the most important factors impacting on the command retention climate. The General Accounting Office (GAO), in a recent report to Congress concerning the effects of variable reenlistment bonuses (VRB), stated that "individuals place major importance on factors other than money in deciding whether to reenlist." The GAO based its report on the results of a survey of 2,200 enlisted men who had recently reenlisted or were approaching the ship-over point. The results indicated that the major factors working against retention were family separation, poor supervision and leadership, and lack of personal freedom. The Navy's Personnel Affairs Action Programs of 1970 and, more recently, the Human Goals Program stress "sound leadership" as a primary means of developing the full potential of the Navy's human and physical resources. Whether the issue concerns the retention and recruitment of an all-volunteer force, the management of our human and physical resources, or effectiveness in combat, one major factor is consistently listed as impacting significantly on the outcome-leadership.
What is this thing called "leadership" that is so important to the resolution of the problems confronting the Navy? What can be done to encourage and nurture the development of this leadership within the Navy? What emphasis is placed on leadership in determining naval officers' performance and potential for handling increased responsibilities? These questions must be answered if we expect to effectively meet the many challenges facing us.
The first question, "What is leadership?" might appear to many in the service to be naive or facetious. Most naval officers would say that leadership is their primary stock-in-trade and that they practice some form of leadership daily. General Order 21, U. S. Navy Regulations, and many other sources provide guidance in the leadership area. Yet, although we have working definitions among officers, and formal definitions and guidance from published naval sources, the evidence suggests that a leadership problem does exist. Reevaluation of our definitions and published guidance will certainly promote better understanding and may provide insight and direction for the development of solutions.
General Order 21, which may have been cancelled by the time these words are read, says that:
"By Naval Leadership is meant the art of accomplishing the Navy's mission through people. It is the sum of those qualities of intellect, of human understanding, and of moral character that enable a man to inspire and to manage a group of people successfully. Effective leadership, therefore, is based on personal example, good management practices, and moral responsibility."
"Accomplishing the Navy's mission through people" covers every type of leadership practice conceivable and implies justification of that practice so long as the mission is accomplished. Recognizing the implication of the above statement, the prudent man will choose that method of leadership that has the least chance of failing to accomplish the mission.
Navy Regulations is equally general: "Leadership shall be exercised to achieve a positive dominant influence on the performance of people in the Navy."
Again we see a very strong emphasis on performance with no mention of the method employed to achieve the "dominant influence." While wide latitude of action is definitely needed to allow individuals to perform and develop their unique styles, the spectrum of acceptable behavior could be narrowed considerably to enhance a common, united, consistent, Navy-wide effort in the leadership area. The definitions and statements in Navy Regulations and General Order 21 are so broad and general that the term leadership becomes meaningless when offered as a solution to common problems. The experiences of the last five years have demonstrated this fact. Obviously, something more is needed.
This problem of a common meaning for the term leadership is not unique to the Navy. Behavioral scientists have been struggling to arrive at a common definition and theory of leadership for many years. In Managerial Process and Organizational Behavior, published in 1969, Alan C. Filley and Robert J. House describe leadership as one of the most researched and least understood topics confronting the social psychologist today. One of the few areas of agreement is that leadership is a highly complex and sophisticated concept. Leadership has been defined as the art of inducing compliance, as the exercise of influence, as a form of persuasion, as an act or a behavior, as an instrument of goal achievement, as an effect of interaction between people, as a differentiated role, as a power relationship between people, as personality and its effects, as a focus of group processes, and as the initiation of structure in groups, to name a few. These definitions have been developed in leadership theories which attempt to explain the factors involved in the emergence of leadership and the nature of leadership. The multiplicity of these theories and definitions is indicative of the lack of resolution about leadership, and also of the difficulty involved in constructing a universal statement to describe leadership.
The research connected with leadership has been much more successful than the theories developed from the research in increasing the body of knowledge and understanding of the concept. This is because research deals with specific factors such as motivation, group size, task complexity, etc., and their effects, while leadership theory attempts to synthesize all of those specific factors into a universal statement. The failure to provide an acceptable theory of leadership has resulted in increased efforts to identify the factors involved, to construct a framework for the understanding of those factors, and, based on that framework, to develop principles from which to build a general theory. Two major directions have been taken in attempting to construct a framework. One was to identify and describe the kind of functions that leaders perform. The other was to identify and describe various types or styles of leadership.
The functional approach used as its base the classical theories of management which suggested that the primary functions performed by the leader were planning, organizing, and controlling. These functions describe the rationalized processes of formal organizations and, although highly general, ignore the human nature of the organization members. The behavioral theorists attempt to account for the effects of that human nature in describing the functions that the leader performs. In Handbook of Leadership, Ralph M. Stogdill lists those leadership functions as:
- defining objectives and maintaining goal direction
- providing means for goal attainment
- providing and maintaining group structure
- facilitating group action and interaction
- maintaining group cohesiveness and member satisfaction
- facilitating group task performance
The typological approach has been to summarize observations by proposing various types of leadership behavior. Stogdill reported that 16 authors from 1915 to 1951, in common with other authors, recognized two or more types of leadership.
Recent theorists have concentrated on two of the above types, authoritative and democratic, and have shifted the emphasis from type of behavior to the value orientation of the leader exhibiting the behavior. Authoritative, persuasive, and executive types of behavior are now grouped under the term "task-oriented." The democratic type of leadership behavior is now termed "people-oriented." (The intellectual and representative types fit neither of the above two value orientations and have been largely ignored in recent research.) "Task-oriented" means that the leader is primarily concerned with meeting the organization's need for productivity and effective task accomplishment. "People-oriented" means that the leader is primarily concerned with meeting the organization member's human needs for mature and healthy relationships. Recent research indicates that the vast majority of leaders exhibit one or the other of the above two value orientations. A very small number of leaders exhibit both value orientations simultaneously. It is the few who exhibit both concerns that are most successful under all conditions. Theorists are examining the individual who can do both and attempting to determine if this simultaneous value orientation can be developed in individual leaders, and if so, how. This appears to be the same question confronting the Navy in the leadership area today.
In considering the question of leadership in the Navy then, it seems prudent to identify that form of leadership behavior and value orientation that we wish to develop in the Navy and approach our development of that leadership behavior in terms of specific variables rather than to make a universal statement. While we will not be successful in totally defining naval leadership, we will hopefully provide a frame of reference and a value orientation that would be helpful in giving direction to the solution of leadership problems at all levels within the Navy.
In choosing a value orientation we have three alternatives: task-orientation, people-orientation, or both. The third alternative is clearly the most desirable in terms of overall Navy mission effectiveness. Task-orientation alone will produce a high percentage of task accomplishment, but at a price in terms of people that we can ill afford to pay in a technically complex, all-volunteer environment. "People-orientation" alone will produce good morale and high retention figures but will have great difficulty in meeting the commitments of today's very demanding Navy. Any compromise or trade-off between the two will result in lower-than-potential performance in both task accomplishment (organizational needs) and morale (member needs). The most desirable result is maximum fulfillment of both organizational needs and member needs. This result can be obtained only by that leader whose value orientation recognizes the importance of task and mission accomplishment and also the intrinsic importance of the individual human being. Although this value orientation is much harder to describe, to measure, and to develop, it nevertheless offers the greatest potential payoff for the future.
Having identified the desired value orientation as a simultaneous concern with task and people, we can Construct a framework with which to describe leadership behavior, and leadership effectiveness. The framework consists of five behavior variables and four outcome variables. The behavior variables are:
Control. The amount of freedom of action, direction, closeness of supervision, and trust that is given to the follower by the leader.
Structure. The degree to which the leader initiates and maintains follower expectations regarding task accomplishment, punishment and reward situations, value orientation, leader-follower relationship, organizational authority, accountability, and responsibility.
Consideration. The degree to which the leader cares about the welfare of the follower.
Leader-Follower interaction. The degree to which mutual understanding of the leader's and the follower's human and emotional factors are developed.
Role Legitimation. The degree to which the leader's behavior strengthens the follower's perception of that individual leader's right to function in a leadership position.
The outcome variables are:
Task Accomplishment. The effectiveness of the group in accomplishing assigned tasks.
Follower Satisfaction. The degree to which the needs and expectations of the individual follower are fulfilled.
Follower Development. The degree to which the skills and abilities of the individual follower are developed.
Cohesiveness of Purpose. The degree to which individual and group goals coincide with organizational goals.
The behavior variables can be used to describe the unique style of the individual leader. They also have a predictable effect on each of the four outcome variables and can be used by the individual leader to evaluate his own behavior in any situation. The outcome variables are similarly used to determine leadership effectiveness and the overall performance of his group. Although many of the variables do not lend themselves to quantitative evaluation, they should be discernible to the leader who is aware of and attempting to evaluate them.
It should be noted that if our value orientation was "task" we would be concerned primarily with the first outcome variable in determining effectiveness. If our valve orientation was "people," we would be primarily concerned with the second and third outcome variables. Since our value orientation is simultaneous "task" and "people", we are concerned with all of the first three, and have added a fourth, "cohesiveness of purpose," which is the trademark of that "small number of leaders who can do both." It is a measure of the ability of the group to become more than the sum of its parts, no matter what the task, no matter what the situation. Again, it is the most difficult variable to measure and to develop, but offers the greatest potential payoff under all conditions.
In using the above framework to describe leadership behavior, we must remember one fact. Namely, the real test of leadership lies not in the value orientation or behavior of the leader, but in the performance of the group that he leads. The behavior of the leader does, however, have an enormous effect on each of the outcome variables, which exist in a complex association that determines overall group performance. The effect will also vary depending on the situation. We must describe desired leadership behavior, then, in terms of that behavior's effect on the outcome variables. Desired leadership behavior is that behavior that has a positive effect on at least one of the outcome variables and, at a minimum, a neutral (not negative) effect on the remaining outcome variables in any given situation. For example, consider the two situations of handling nuclear weapons, and conducting a departmental field day. A great deal of the behavior variable, control, is exercised in the handling of nuclear weapons due to the possible consequences of mistakes or accidents. Everyone concerned generally recognizes these possible consequences and expects and accepts the control. The exercise of the control itself becomes a group function and in most cases has a positive effect on all of the outcome variables. For this situation, then, we can say that the desired leadership behavior is very strong and close control. For the situation of the departmental field day a different amount of control would be appropriate in most cases. The exact amount would depend on the individual situation, but the desired effect would be the same as for the nuclear weapons handling example—namely, task accomplishment in getting the spaces clean, follower satisfaction in a job well done, individual development in the case of departmental junior officers and petty officers depending on the problems encountered, and their involvement in solving those problems, and group cohesiveness in the resulting group pride of accomplishment and overall results of the field day. The desired amount of control for the field day situation would be that amount which contributes to the above outcomes. Granted, it is much more difficult to exhibit behavior that has no negative effects, only positive or neutral effects, than it is to maximize positive effects in one area at the expense of others. It is not impossible, however, and if we are ever to realize our full potential as leaders we must strive in that direction.
In conclusion, then, let us reexamine the questions that we began with. What is leadership? It is still difficult to say. Definitions abound, and you may choose one that has meaning for you. The important thing is to develop an individual framework, such as the one offered above, that reflects your individual value orientation as a leader, and that you can use to examine your leadership behavior and effectiveness in any situation. Leadership effectiveness is a difficult goal to achieve and will require a continual awareness of the complexities involved and a continual effort in dealing with those complexities to succeed fully.
What can be done to encourage and nurture the development of leadership within the Navy? The Navy Human Goals Plan has created a tremendous amount of machinery in the last few years that can provide valuable and useful assistance to the individual leader in increasing his leadership effectiveness, and in furthering overall Navy mission accomplishment. What is lacking is a common direction or value orientation, and a common framework within which to use that machinery. This is so important because the leadership behaviors fostering task accomplishment are not necessarily the same as those fostering variables such as individual development, which affects the individual's ability to contribute to the group, member satisfaction, which provides for the continuance of the group, and cohesiveness of purpose, which affects the group's ability to function as more than the sum of its parts. We must avoid the trap, inherent in General Order 21 and other sources, of equating successful task accomplishment and effective leadership, if we are to realize our full potential in the leadership area. Successful task accomplishment is like the visible tip of an iceberg. The part of the iceberg which lies below the surface is large in relation to the whole, but is not easily discernible. What lies beneath the surface of task accomplishment is also large and very important in relation to naval leadership, and is equally difficult to discern. The Navy must take a firm and published stand in creating a common framework with which to deal with the complexities of leadership effectiveness, and with which to develop better understanding of and a common direction for leadership efforts within the Navy.
What emphasis is placed on leadership in determining naval officers' performance and potential for handling increased responsibilities? The major, and in many cases the only, factor emphasized by rating officers in writing officer fitness reports is task accomplishment. The officer's ability to deal with the complexities involved in a simultaneous task and people orientation is very seldom, if ever, addressed. Unless the emphasis on task accomplishment is modified to include factors such as group cohesiveness, member satisfaction, and individual development, the Navy will continue to produce a large majority of officers who are task-oriented.
The worksheet for the new officer fitness report provides an excellent means of distinguishing between the naval officer who strives to maximize all four of the above factors, and the naval officer who maximizes task accomplishment at the expense of the other three. If we fail to use that tool to identify the naval officer who maximizes all four factors, and to reward that individual with increased responsibilities and rank, then we are merely giving lip service to the Human Goals Plan and the whole idea of task and people orientation. We must use the officer fitness report as a means with which to prevent leaders of contending orientations from destroying the legitimation of the dual task and people leadership role within the Navy.
In dealing with a topic as broad and complex as leadership, there are very few answers and an infinite number of questions. To say that a leadership problem exists in the Navy is to say that the sun will surely rise tomorrow. We will always have a leadership problem of some sort. The rewards for progressing towards the solutions to the problem, however, are great. The first and necessary step in that progression has to do with increasing understanding and awareness of the problem. We all must contribute to that awareness and understanding. A common framework and value orientation will facilitate that contribution.
Lieutenant Svendsen is a 1967 graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy. His first duty was the USS Perry (DD-844) where he served as first lieutenant, navigator, and gunnery officer. He next served in the commissioning crew of the USS El Paso (LKA-117) and was navigator from 1969 co 1971. Lieutenant Svendsen attended Naval Destroyer School at Newport, Rhode Island, graduating in March 1972, and then served as operations officer on board the USS Benjamin Stoddert (DDG-22). Be was a CinCPacFlr junior officer shiphandling award winner in 1973. He reported to the NROTC Unit at the University of Minnesota in April 1974 and serves as first class instructor.